Do You Do This, Too?

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Do you ever write something you’ve already done on your to-do list for the sheer satisfaction of crossing it off?

C’mon, we all do it, but why does it feel so good?

Because it’s an acknowledgement of our success; a reward giving us instant gratification.

That’s what our present self needs to keep going: Quick wins.

One of the core causes of your blocks and obstacles (i.e. “clutter”) is unrealistic expectations — something most of us set thinking we’ll get to the finish line faster when, in fact, all it does is make it tough to get started.

This week, I’m sharing an excerpt from my book, From Clutter to Clarity, to help explain the powerful difference between Present You and Future You. When you understand their roles and the relationship between them, you’ll get why the tortoise wins the race.

From Chapter 2, From Clutter to Clarity: Clean Up Your Mindset to Clear Out Your Clutter

Unrealistic expectations are often the biggest hurdles in any clutter-clearing endeavor. They are also the ones that prevent you from finding out what’s really going on under the piles, people, or pounds.

Because you’re resisting the job so strongly, all you can think of is how far you are from the finish line, how much time and effort it’s going to take to complete it, and how much of a challenge it will be to even start.

You might think you can (and should) get it all done in one fell swoop.

Maybe you believe that once you start, you can’t stop until it’s finished, or that there’s a logical way to do it and if you can’t do it that way, it can’t be done at all.

This all-or-nothing mindset is a default reaction of your fear. It’s that part of you that feels completely overwhelmed. It focuses only on the before and after and struggles to see the process. However, it’s the process—the small steps in between—that holds the secret to your success.

Breaking down your tasks and projects into smaller pieces increases your chances of getting started, which is the key to finishing anything. While Future You can easily get on board with how great it’ll feel to have everything done, Present You needs consistent wins to stay motivated (like crossing that task off your to-do list). With each small step you complete, you become more invested in finishing the whole task.

Engaging in this is simple.

Instead of waiting until you have a free day to clean out your kitchen, get started right away by going through your utensil drawer.

The next time you get dressed, look for one article of clothing you’re willing to get rid of.

When you’re watching television at night, sort through a box from the garage.

When you’re realistic with your expectations, your resistance quiets down and you can get on board with the idea of taking action.

By asking yourself to start with something small, you’re more likely to see that true success is in the doing rather than the outcome.

And because the key to finishing anything is starting it, think about how you can make it easier to begin instead of focusing on the enormity of the job or how long it will take you to complete it.

You’ve likely heard or read lots of advice about quieting your monkey mind, pushing through your resistance, and not entertaining the ego’s influence.

I actually recommend the exact opposite.

The pushback you feel when you try to make progress is rooted in fear. The presence of your monkey mind, resistance, and ego are evidence that you’re stepping out of your comfort zone. Everything in your comfort zone is familiar and safe, but it’s also a place where no growth or change happens.

To help your resistance get on board and stay on board, let this be your mantra: “Underpromise and overdeliver.”

By not expecting yourself to dive into the deep end, you help that younger part of you trust the current you more. With each small step, she sees that you’ll be right beside her, guiding her along the way.

When she watches you take the lead, she’ll be much more likely to step outside of her comfort zone. After all, she’s not the one doing the adulting. You are.

She needs you to do the heavy lifting as much as you need her playfulness and creative insight, so instead of trying to silence her, invite her to the party.

If you still find yourself avoiding the task even after breaking it into pieces, it’s time to dig deeper. There is something bigger you are scared of. Even if you know you’d be much happier, relieved, or excited with the project done, there is something more appealing about leaving it undone.

Open your journal and ask yourself this question: “How am I benefitting from putting things off?” This question may sound ridiculous, but there must be a payout to procrastinating, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it.

You might come up with answers like:

  • If I complete this, people will expect more of me.
  • I’m scared of the emotions this could stir up.
  • I’m not smart enough to figure this out.
  • What if I mess up and disappoint people?
It can be hard to face these thoughts. It’s okay. Remember: the key is to start somewhere and to be kind to yourself as you do.
To grab your copy of From Clutter to Clarity, head over to my shop page here:
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